Sunday, August 16, 2009

Creativity and Marketing

It seems nowadays people associate marketing (and marketing program) with "creative-ness" to gauge the effectiveness or success. What role does creativity play in marketing? How effective is creative-marketing? or How creative should marketing be?

Defining the terms:

Creative: (According to Wikipedia) Creativity is a mental and social process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the creative mind between existing ideas or concepts.

Marketing: (According to American Marketing Association) Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

Measuring Creative Marketing:

Marketing and Creative(ity) may share no common element in their definitions. But as a matter of fact, marketing (programs) need creativity to arouse the attention level. Recall the AIDA model? (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action). People are more susceptible to novel and different, creative marketing programs. When people are impressed with a creative proposition, their defenses drop during the experience. But this could also backfire seriously if your propositions are perceived negatively or biaised - so, it's advisable to avoid being creative with sensitive topics.

Marketing, while focusing on the basics which is, effectively anticipating and solving the markets needs, sometimes need to engage a more creative avenue to create value or finding uncommon solutions to everyday problems. Using the AIDA model, creativity could be phased in the different steps of the process. This process needs to be coupled with a clear marketing unique selling proposition (USP) to define the purpose of the marketing program. Far too often we ignore the purpose of the marketing program and focus on the fun and creative part of it only.

So, as we established the need to have creativity in marketing, how do we learn this "creativity"? Good news! According to Jeffrey Gitomer (in his best selling book, The Sales Bible: The Ultimate Sales Resource), creativity can be learned!

Harvey Mackay's creativity killers includes:
  1. It's not in the budget
  2. The boss will never go for it
  3. Form a committee
  4. Think about it
  5. Leave well enough alone
  6. That idea could get you fired
  7. Its not my job
  8. Competition does it
  9. Competition does not do it
  10. Let the competition try it first (and see what happends)
  11. Sounds like a good idea, talk to legal
Here are some ideas on unleashing creativeness:

History is not creative - or can it be? By history, I mean modify somethings that's been done before. Do more than modify - improve it for the new product, new market, new trend, new expectations. But if this is someone else's idea, how can it be creative? Like it or not, most creative ideas are/were the results of a former influence.

Thinking "out of the box". Mental barriers are the worst creativity restriction. When you think out of the box, anything goes, everything has an opportunity. Push the limits on your ideas, use 6 "why's" instead of the standard 5-why problem solving steps. What have people not thought of? or would not think of? When you work in this mode and constantly challenge your mental creativity, your subconcious mind will do the rest of the work.

Courage to be different or take risks. Far too many creative thoughts vanish every minute without action. Those who seive the opportunity and take action always have the 1 mile advantage over the rest. And don't forget to have fun.

Set the mood or pace. Some people get's creative shocks while driving, others during the shower. Some people feel creative in the morning, while others may get those ideas over a cup of coffee in retreat. What's yours?

According to Kenichi Ohmae in the classic "The Mind of the Strategies", Habits of mind and modes of thinking can be acquired through practice to help you free the creative power of your subconscious and improve your odds of coming up with winning strategic concepts.

Final note about creativity and marketing, read Jack Trout's "Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition" - Chapter 6. Creativity is Not a Differentiating Idea.

The Creativity Trap
Puffery has been replaced with vagueness. A large amount of today's advertisement has gotten so creative or entertaining that it's sometimes hard to tell what companies are even advertising.
[end of extract]

Creativity may get you that 15 seconds of attention. But focusing on USP will get your customers to purchase your products. Never compromise creative promotion with fundamentals that sells (unless you're only after media awards)! Creativity needs to walk hand-in-hand with the USP to achieve an explosive marketing program result. If isolated, creativity draws the attention to itself and that's it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Future of Marketing

I recently read a white paper from CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing, UK) titled; The Future of Marketing – Marketing's Decline: a Wild Exaggeration? (research completed by Aston Business School).

Extract from CIM introduction:
The Paper argues that marketing can be hampered by short-term thinking by the business and a lack of accountability, creativity and courage on the part of marketers themselves. The Paper shows that sometimes marketers are their own worst enemy, failing to account for their often considerable budgets, falling back on dull and uninspiring campaigns, and floundering when questioned on the financial impact of their strategies.
[end of extract]

It's interesting to observe how the role of marketing is also scrutinized during challenging times, and to think (in the future) what key roles marketing can play in enhancing business competitive strategy and transforming organization growth successfully.

I believe a lot of people (and company organization structures) still has the mindset that marketing equals sales! Despite the fact that every professional marketing course starts with the fundamental topic on marketing concept (you may recall the famous “sales is only the tip of the iceberg…”). While marketing has been around in the local academic architecture for a while, why is it that people still maintain that old mindset, or how do we explain the current less-exciting growth rate in student registrations for marketing these days?

The white paper points out some severe marketing weaknesses based on UK survey (with my own categories below):

1) Credibility: Marketing directors as unaccountable, untouchable, slippery and expensive.

2) Competence: Only 20% of senior marketers believe marketing is truly effective, 12% think the role of marketing is clearly articulated in their organization.

3) Effectiveness: Chief executives cannot find evidence of the added value of marketing.

These were the survey results from matured, highly developed companies that truly adopted the marketing function (in the deepest and fullest sense), meaning they’ve been there; done it; preach it and now go through a snag. How about companies where marketing is still in infancy stage? I believe some major weaknesses, or hurdles for marketing function in Malaysia can be summarized as:

1) Corporate shortsightedness: Just look at the local job listings and you’ll find marketing roles basically doing sales or customer service! No wonder our graduate students stay away from marketing courses if they want to avoid a career in selling (a career in sales/selling is not actually bad as most may perceive it, and I would like to cover professional selling in another discussion). Marketing jobs today covers everything except marketing strategy, product planning and other real strategic roles that marketer's should be doing.

2) Where is marketing Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)?: Almost every process is outsourced; finance, manufacturing, business operations, sales! But marketing functions are usually controlled by the corporate marketing team in headquarters. Now, coupled with the earlier point, what are the professional marketing opportunities available in Malaysia? So, how can we change this?

3) Lack of publicity or standard: The image of professional marketing needs to be improved. Marketing executives needs to be doing marketing. I saw an interesting advertisement from CFP with a clown with a scalpel attempting a surgery. The tagline: Certified or Certifiable? The CIM Chartered Marketer is a wonderful way to distinctively separate professional marketers. Wouldn’t it be great if we also had standard criteria in the job scope or KPI (Key Performance Indices) to meet before someone can hold the title Marketing Director?

The white paper also serves as a good alarm clock/history lesson/learning curve for companies pursuing to improve their marketing function. While for those still undecided (on the fence), the benefits definitely outweigh the weaknesses if you implement your marketing function with the following focus:

1) Marketer are particularly (still) respected for their ability to systematically measure customer satisfaction (65%)

2) Marketers (still) monitor the ability to serve customers (52%)

3) Marketers (still) promote customer needs within the firm (65%)

With this blog, I hope to change the perception of marketing in Malaysia, and to promote a higher degree of buzz and excitement for professional marketing. I am dedicating this blog entirely to discuss issues on MARKETING, including books, theories, and trends and about anything else (on Marketing).

On our local newsstands, I can only find 1 magazine on marketing (Marketingmagazine I’m interested to know their readership rate (as a means to judge the interest in marketing among Malaysian readers). Clearly, Malaysian marketers need to collaborate, and step up their creativity, courage and efforts in driving this profession to the next level. The global market space is rapidly growing and evolving, and we need high level, professional marketing competency to maintain competitive advantage.

About the White Paper: What is the future of marketing?
Free to members, The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s White Paper, The Future of Marketing, will be discussed on 1 September 2009 in Birmingham. The paper is the result of research completed for The Institute by Aston Business School
To request for a copy from CIM

About me (and why I keep mentioning CIM): I hold a CIM PostGraduate Diploma. I believe, and recognize CIM’s efforts in representing the profession, being the voice of marketing, setting (new) standards within the industry and being the first port of call for marketing information, knowledge and insight.

To participate in enhancing the role of marketing, share your thoughts, ideas, suggestions in this blog. Thanks!